The 123 Game
Updated: May 7, 2021
This is a fun, simple game that can be used for LOTS of different purposes.
The goal is to have a dog who is able to engage with you when you start counting, whether stationary or moving.
The first step is to teach your dog that he will get something great from you when you count to 3.
Stand near your dog. (You can have him on a leash if needed.)
Count in a happy tone and cadence, "One...two...three!"
Right after you say three, feed your dog a treat!
Repeat several times.
The goal is to have your dog start looking at you when you start counting! You might have to wait until the second session or so.
Try and keep practice to just a minute or two at a time, you want to keep it fun and fresh, not boring and repetitive!
Watch that you aren't distracting your dog with treats in your hand while you're counting. Use a treat bag or hold your treat hand behind your back if you notice this.
Play While Moving
Next, we want to teach our dogs to walk alongside us while we count!
Start by counting "One...two...three!" as you take a step with each number.
On "three" or right after, offer your dog a treat at his "take out window"; this is at his head-height, next to either side of your legs. (This helps him learn that he needs to come pick his food up, it's not being delivered! It also teaches him to hang out close to you when you start counting!) For small dogs or for those of us who find it easier, it's also a-okay to drop the treat next to you or to let your small dog reach up to reach the treat in your hand.
Repeat! (Again, keep it short and sweet.)
As it gets easier to coordinate, you can count as quickly or as slowly as needed. You don't have to match your steps up to the numbers.
Your goal is for your dog to follow or heel beside you when you walk and count.
Just like all our other behaviors, we want to build on success!
Once your dog can play 123 indoors and meets your goal criteria, start playing outdoors! Start in the yard, then move to playing it on walks (if needed on walks) with no people or dogs around.
You may need to pay your dog better (give more delicious treats) for playing outside. Outside has so many more distractions and the environment is so rewarding! Make it worth your dog's while to play with you.
Once your dog can play this game indoors and outdoors, you're ready for his next steps! (For example, if your dog is leash reactive, we'll go over how to use this game around other dogs or people you see on walks!)
This game was originally developed by Leslie McDevitt!